5 things you have to know about Bills: Change in OC led to spike in Buffalo's offensive tempo

September 26, 2016 - 6:01 pm

[caption id="attachment_111882" align="alignright" width="400"]LeSean McCoy is the most versatile option on the Bilsl roster. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports) LeSean McCoy is the most versatile option on the Bills roster. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)[/caption] Five things you have to know about the Bills, who will travel to New England this weekend for a date with the Patriots. 1. They're better at running the ball than throwing it. Through three games, the strength of the Buffalo offense appears to be an ability to run the ball — the Bills average a healthy 119.7 rushing yards per game (eighth in the league) and an impressive 4.8 yards per carry (fourth in the league). However, those numbers are skewed a bit because they rushed for a whopping 208 yards last Sunday against the Cardinals, but just 65 against the Ravens and 86 against the Jets. Why the sudden spike? Maybe it's new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and the fact that he's considered a more running back-friendly coach. (He coached the running backs before he stepped up to take over for Greg Roman. More on Lynn in a minute.) Maybe it's the fact that the Cardinals have been exposed as an overrated defense that's still seeking an identity. Or maybe LeSean McCoy flipped a switch. Whatever the case, the Bills' run game will likely be their bread-and-butter Sunday in Foxboro. It starts with McCoy, who has 227 yards on 48 carries (4.7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns through three games, to go along with 13 catches for 98 yards. McCoy had a pair of touchdowns and his first 100-yard rushing game Sunday against Arizona. (For what it's worth, in three career games against the Patriots, McCoy had 202 yards on 45 carries and a pair of touchdowns.) Buffalo will also mix in some designed runs for quarterback Tyrod Taylor (16 carries, 112 yards, one touchdown). Expect the Patriots to stack things up front and dare Taylor to beat them over the top. 2. They're one of the worst passing team in the league, at least from a straight numbers perspective. Part of it is because Sammy Watkins has struggled with a foot injury, but the Bills are at or near the bottom of the league in most major passing categories. Taylor is 47-for-77 (61 percent) with 527 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions through three games. Taylor has cracked the 100-yard mark through the air in only one of his three games (for what it's worth, that was a 307-yard performance in a 37-31 defeat to the Jets. Obviously, the speedy Watkins is a huge x-factor here; if he can go, it's a bit of a game-changer for the Bills passing attack. Watkins has six receptions for 63 yards in limited action this season. McCoy leads the team in catches, but Taylor has also zoned in on Robert Woods (11 catches, 15 targets, 81 yards) and tight end Charles Clay (seven catches 12 targets, 67 yards). The key here for New England? Maintain gap discipline and pay extra attention to Taylor or McCoy to make sure they don't get to the second level. 3. The biggest difference in their offense since Anthony Lynn took over as OC? The tempo. The Bills changes things up on offense on multiple occasions against the Cardinals, and while they really didn't run much of a traditional no-huddle, they were certainly in and out of their offensive huddle quicker than the first two games. The changes in tempo caught Arizona flat-footed on occasion, and Buffalo was able to take advantage. This story gives a good look at the major changes — including the fact the Bills were often breaking the huddle with 18 to 22 seconds left on the play clock instead of nine or 10 seconds as they had in Week One. There were also changes in the way the backfield aligned, as well as a wildcat formation or two thrown in for good measure. All food for thought for the Patriots as they prepare for the Buffalo offensive scheme. 4. They are middle of the road defensively, but better than most when it comes to takeaways. Buffalo has allowed an average of 383 total yards per game (23rd going into Monday Night Football), 285 passing yards per game (22nd) 98 rushing yards per game (tied for 14th) and a perfectly pedestrian 22.7 points per game (17th). There are no overwhelming vulnerabilities, but one area that really stands out for them is the fact that they are pretty good when it comes to turnover potential, and takeaways in particular. Some of this was because the offense had built such a sizable lead and the Cardinals were forced to throw a lot to try and get back into the game, but on Sunday against Arizona, they became the first team in the NFL since 2013 to come away with four fourth-quarter picks. Overall, they have second takeaways (four picks and three fumble recoveries) and just two giveaways (both fumbles). That plus-five is good enough to tie them for third in the league, and trail only Minnesota (plus-8) and Philadelphia (plus-six). 5. Their special teamers are smart enough to take advantage of miscues. The Bills had the good sense last Sunday to take advantage of a miserable Arizona special teams corps when they cashed in a special teams touchdown on a return of a botched snap on a Cardinals field-goal attempt. As for the rest of the special teams, kicker Dan Carpenter is 3-for-4 on field-goal attempts and 8-for-9 on extra points. Punter Colton Schmidt's 40.6 average is 27th in the league, and his 38.4 net average is 23rd. Old friend Brandon Tate is Buffalo's primary kick returner, and his average of 24.2 yards per return on six chances is fifth-best in the league. Tate is also the fifth-best punt returner in the league — at least from an average standpoint — at 17 yards per chance on four return chances.